A Barking Mad Test?

Want to measure your cognitive ability? Just draw a dog. I’m serious – draw the best (whole!) dog that you can, and I’ll give you a score. You can find out what happened when we ran this as a twitter competition here

Scroll down to score your dog…















Dog Point Scale

1. Head present

2. Neck present

3. Neck 2-dimensional – must flow into head or body

4. Eyes present

5. Eye detail – lashes

6. Eye detail – pupil

7. Glance

8. Nose present – any indication

9. Nose present – 2-dimensional

10. Mouth present

11. Lips 2-dimensional

12. Hair or spots – any indication

13. Hair I – scribble closely conforming to body – includes spots

14. Hair II – more than just scribble or on circumference

15. Ears present

16. Ears in proportion – length greater than width

17. Legs present – any indicator

18. 4 Legs

19. Legs engaged in activity – or lying down

20. Legs in proportion – length greater than width

21. Legs 2-dimensional

22. Some distance between front and rear legs

23. Legs in perspective

24. Crotch-like indicator for legs

25. Legs in proportion – taper off from top

26. Digits present

27. Feet – any indication

28. Feet – 2-dimensional

29. Details of toes correct

30. Trunk present

31. Trunk in proportion – length greater than width

32. Head not more than ½, nor smaller than 1/10th, of body width

33. Length of face greater than width

34. Tail present

35. Tail – 2-dimensional

36. Tail shaped

37. Motor coordination lines

38. Motor coordination junctures

39. Head outline – good contour

40. Trunk outline – deviation from oval form

41. Collar or leash


The Draw-A-Dog Scale is a real psychological test, used to measure children’s cognitive development. The average score for five-, six- and seven-year-olds is 14, 18 and 22 points respectively, with boys and girls showing similar performance. So if you didn’t manage to beat this, you should be asking yourself some serious questions.

The logic behind this test, and the more widely used Goodenough-Harris Draw-A-Person Test, is that it provides a relatively pure measure of cognitive development that is unclouded by other factors. For example, more traditional IQ tests based on language, maths or logic are affected by factors such as children’s ability to read or understand verbal instructions, and – as such – are more a measure of education level than of pure cognitive development.

But the Draw-A-Person Test also has a darker – and more controversial – cousin: the Draw-A-Person Screening Procedure for Emotional Disturbance. As its name implies, clinicians use these drawings to identify children who are emotionally disturbed. Some people have claimed that individual errors or distortions represent specific problems (e.g., that children who miss out eyes are unwilling to interact with the world around them). Although there is little evidence for such specific claims, some studies have found that, when taken as a whole, drawings can help to distinguish normal and disturbed children. One scoring criterion, for example, is whether children draw fists, claws, guns or knives. Drawing monsters instead of people and writing swear words are both cause for concern, as is drawing unusually huge or tiny people. That said, this is an inexact science; even the study that provides perhaps the strongest support for this test found that drawings could correctly classify only around 63 per cent of children as normal versus potentially disturbed.

So if some of your child’s drawings are a little bit – ahem – colourful, don’t start calling the doctor just yet. But if – like The Simpsons bully Nelson Muntz – she draws ‘a robot with guns for arms, shooting a plane made out of guns that fires guns’, you should probably run for the hills.

This is an extract from Psy-Q: You know your IQ – Now test your psychological intelligence, which you can buy here

Levinson, B. M., & Mezei, H. (1973). The Draw-a-Dog Scale. Perceptual and Motor Skills36(1), 19–22.

Goodenough, F. (1926). Measurement of intelligence by drawings. New York: World Book Co.

Harris, D. B. (1963). Children’s drawings as measures of intellectual maturity. New York: Harcourt, Brace & World, Inc.

Naglieri, J. A., & Pfeiffer, S. I. (1992). Performance of disruptive behavior disordered and normal samples on the Draw A Person: Screening Procedure for Emotional Disturbance. Psychological Assessment4(2), 156.


1 Comment

  1. I was trafficked to another country and worked as a maid. The family decided I should be taken to a psychologist and she gave me the draw a person test. I drew a woman (I am a woman – apparently I did the right thing there) and drew her in quite baggy clothes. This was because the family I stayed with made me wear baggy clothes so I was scared if they saw I had drawn otherwise they would call me a w*ore, as they had before. Then I was told to draw someone of the opposite sex on the same piece of paper. I drew a man, but obviously because I hadn’t been told to do that in advance, I had to draw him to one side and slightly smaller than the woman I had drawn in the centre of the page. The results came back: the baggy dress meant I was uncomfortable in my womanhood and the man being smaller raised a question about my sexuality. The family I was with terminated my employment on the basis that the report said I was a lesbian and I had to use a charity to get back home. I have had a scepticism about clinical psychology since then.

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